At first it must have been disappointing to learn he would not be the one to build the temple. King David was told by God that he had shed too much blood. The honor of leaving a beautiful temple, a worship center, as a legacy to God’s people, would fall to his son Solomon. The sting of disappointment would likely have dissipated, knowing that he was gathering building materials for his son to construct this special edifice (I Chron. 22). Besides, a father finds joy knowing that his son will be his successor. There is a God-given blessing in being allowed to participate in a project that would ultimately enhance Solomon’s future success as God’s administrator.
Elisha must have felt a similar sense of joy knowing that Gehazi would be the next in the list of Old Testament prophets. Jehovah had used Elijah in a significant way to stand for holiness and truth in a godless environment. When his ministry was nearing completion, Elijah laid his cloak on a wonderful man of God, a farmer by the name of Elisha. When Elisha received the call, he sold his farm equipment, sponsored a neighborhood barbecue with his oxen as the menu, and followed the prophet Elijah. Elisha was mentored by Elijah; Elisha had learned from the best. When the Lord took Elijah home, Elisha was the prophet of choice the Lord used.
Elisha selected Gehazi to be the next in line. Gehazi spent time with Elisha. He served as the servant of the prophet of God and saw incredible ministries unfold. Elisha must have felt the joy of a father paving the way for the success of his son. But Gehazi had a serious flaw that would disqualify him from being Elisha’s protege. His problem with greed and integrity would compromise his effectiveness.
Gehazi’s flaw was exposed when Naaman, the captain of the army of the king of Aram, came down with the dreaded disease, leprosy. The disease that first appeared as brownish-red spots on his body left no doubt in the doctor’s diagnosis. Namaan was sent home. Through a series of circumstances, the Aramean captain came to Elisha for divine healing. Once cleansed in the waters of the Jordan River, Namaan offered a very generous compensation package, which Elisha rejected. So Namaan and his entourage left.
Elisha’s servant Gehazi however, saw an opportunity to bolster his personal bank account. He followed Namaan’s group and told them a made-up story about his master Elisha changing his mind about the money and clothes that had been offered. The servant took the items and returned home to hide them. When confronted by Elisha, who was aware of the exchange, Gehazi denied where he had been.
With disappointment, Elisha announced that the leprosy of Namaan would be transferred to Gehazi and all his family (2 Kings 5). The dream of transferring the mantle of ministry from Elijah to Elisha and from Elisha to Gehazi came to an abrupt end. The young prospect had rendered himself unqualified to hold the important post.
Paul told Timothy to “entrust these (that is …”the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses“…) to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). The leader in the work of the Lord is always thinking about the man who will one day take his place. It is his responsibility to be looking for the man or the men who will show themselves faithful in small things in order to be placed in bigger things tomorrow. Again, “success without successors is failure.”
But sometimes the person that we see carrying on the ministry does not pass the test of faithfulness and integrity. He removes himself from serious consideration. At other times, the man that we have in mind is not interested in the position. It is one of the disappointments of ministry. It is a time to be reminded that “the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9).
Timothy could do the entrusting. He could faithfully convey the truths that he had learned about the Lord and about ministry into the lives of men who appeared to be faithful. But Timothy’s agenda would always be subject to the sovereign plan of God who “directs his steps.”
It is important for a leader not to get ahead of the Lord. He needs to bear in mind, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (James 4:15b). It is important to point ourselves in a direction and proceed. It is vital to make decisions based upon information that is available. In the end, our intentions must yield to the Master’s plan. Our replacement will be His choice, not ours. It is our responsibility, when gripped with disappointment, to accept it and move on in ministry like Elisha did in 2 Kings 6.
Editor’s Note: The 2008-2009 moderator of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, John McIntosh is challenging the Fellowship to consider the leaders of tomorrow. He has led the Simi Valley (Calif.) Grace Brethren Church since 1983.